Having a recipe for making soap is one thing but knowing how to put all the ingredients together makes a huge difference. When? How? What temperature? For how long? … are all critical questions that can be answered by taking a few minutes before you begin to stop and think about what your getting ready to do.
I’ll be writing an instructional series on how to make soap. But more pointedly, I’ll be focusing on how you can develop your own process for making soaps. It’s been my experience that the process one uses to make soaps makes a significant difference in the end result.
Since theses instructional steps are being developed and released concurrently, I’m not sure at this point exactly how many steps will be included. My plan is to work through my process then let you know what works for me. Some of my recommendations may not work for you, and that’s fine, but at least you will have a model process to change. You’ll have a beginning, so to speak.
By working with a tested process, you will have a better understanding of equipment layout, storage needs, and space planning. My experience in these fields is buttressed by years of store planning and architectural/interior design, as well as years of writing information technology process manuals and teaching writing courses at the university level.
If this is the first time you’ve made soap, then you are probably working with a recipe/formula you got from an experience soap maker. Chances are good the author included some preliminary instructions on how to put these ingredients together. But, did the author write the recipe for a beginning soap maker or for an experienced soap maker who has a degree ‘presumed knowledge’. The nuances make a difference.
Thoroughly understand your recipe. Be aware of the caustic materials, the temperatures, the flash points, the precautions, the neutralizers, and the ventilation needed to be safe.
Get your ingredients out where you can see them. Make sure you have enough of everything that your recipe calls for. Having these ingredients together will also help you remember to put all of them in your mix; forgetting an oil critically alters your end product.
Working with lye is dangerous. You must exercise caution with every step. Lye can burn your skin and inhaling its fumes can burn your mucus membranes as well as your eyes! Be careful! Know all precautions. Place neutralizers throughout your work space and have emergency phone numbers where everyone one can see them.
Gather all your equipment in one spot; make sure you have all the tools you’ll need BEFORE beginning because you will not have time to go searching for missing equipment or ingredients once the chemistry starts working.
Put your equipment is in its proper place. This way that spoon you desperately need will be where you need it when you need it instead of across the room or in a closed drawer.
TIP: A ‘walk-through’ helps. What I mean by this is walking-through what the recipe instructions tell you to do; kind of like role-playing but without the ingredients. Go through every step the author suggests just to make sure you understand which tools work with each step. This is how I learned where to put my stainless steal spoons versus my rubber spatula; and where to store my stove and my immersion blender.
Clean or otherwise prepare your countertops and tools. I say this because I make goat milk soaps and lotions and everything that touches milk must be sanitized for milk to produce its best results.
Your room must be clean, well lit and have adequate ventilation and exits. Just in case you need to leave quickly. No children, no pets and no items on floors that might cause you to trip, slip or fall.
For you graphic learners, I have translated the above text into a process chart.
This concludes the Getting Ready steps. Next I’ll address more of the actual preparation of soap making. That will take more time to develop so please be patient with me. I’m working on it.
May your soapmaking be joyful!